HUNDREDS of UK driving licence holders are threatening to ‘invade’ the British embassy in Madrid next week.
They are organising via social media in a bid to converge in the Spanish capital from all over the country, in a protest to demand action over their inability to take to the roads since May 1 due to Brexit changes.
The group – which includes not just UK nationals but also Spaniards and other nationalities – are furious that the British and Spanish governments seem unable to strike the most basic deal to get them back on the roads.
Meanwhile, UK licence holders in almost every other European country have been given the right to swap their licences for local ones.
“It is totally unfair and really disgusting that Spanish residents are being trapped in a game that has nothing to do with our ability to drive,” said Scott Rattray, who lives in Lloret de Mar.
“All the other countries managed to not treat their foreign residents like this.”
Another victim, Tom Kington, based in rural Valencia, added: “The fact there is speculation that this may be linked to the future of Gibraltar is atrocious. We are real people with real lives and not pawns in some political game.”
Negotiations over the movement of workers and trade across the Spain-Gibraltar border are now in their second year and are bogged down in legal issues.
A Facebook group titled ‘Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid’ has pencilled in October 13 for a protest outside the embassy in northern Madrid.
The victims, who will mostly come by bus or train, are urging people from all over Spain to turn out to support them. Those who can not make it to the capital are suggesting protests outside regional Tráfico offices in cities such as Alicante, Valencia and Palma de Mallorca.
They have been writing dozens of letters to their MPs back in the UK and politicians in Spain, as well as backing the Olive Press U-Turn campaign that was launched in June
So far demands to Spain’s DGT traffic authority have gone unanswered, while the British embassy itself has limited its responses to the video updates by ambassador Hugh Elliott.
Despite announcing in July that the ‘main text’ of the deal had been agreed, Elliot’s latest message has dashed any hopes that a solution is near.
The latest missive, in which he admits there are a couple of ‘complex’ issues left, has angered the group, which now has over 500 members.
“Politics first, people last. It really is indefensible,” Malcolm Weston wrote on Facebook.
“I’m currently self-employed, earned hardly anything through the pandemic, and so worked hard here to build up the jobs I had,” explained Tara Louise, 36. “Overnight I lost a lot of them, as I couldn’t get there due to lack of public transport.”
Many people who have got in touch have been keen to dispel the impression that they failed to swap their licence due to a lack of action.
“I arrived in Spain earlier than I intended in order to beat the Brexit deadline, in December 2020,” wrote Andy Walker. “I immediately tried to register for licence exchange before the Spanish-imposed cut-off for this on December 31, but was told this was impossible as I could not provide a Spanish fiscal reference number. This would not be assigned until my residency application had been processed, which took a further six months.”
Pascal Siegmund is behind the Facebook group “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid”, which now counts on more than 500 members. “My current situation is that I am banned from driving in Spain without having committed an offence,” he told The Olive Press. “I find myself having to live in the city of Barcelona, with high rents, because I cannot live in nearby cities with lower rents and I also find myself having difficulty getting around in Spain.”
Earlier this week, Siegmund told The Olive Press that the British embassy had agreed to meet with him and three other members of the group on October 18. For now, no Spanish government representative is due to be at the meeting, but Siegmund said he hoped that this would change.
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